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MPOX outbreaks are on the rise. Should you be concerned?

monkeypox, deaths, virus
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Small MPOX outbreaks have recently occurred in New York, North Carolina, and Colorado. But while the virus behind the painful skin infection caused a national public health emergency in 2022, the U.S. officially declared an end to the emergency over a year ago. Since then, there has been little national messaging around what, if anything, people should do to avoid contracting the virus.

The aforementioned recent outbreaks occurred among 62 people in New York City; three people in Wake County, North Carolina; and individuals in Mesa County, Colorado. Health officials there have residents about the symptoms — including headache, fever, chills, body ache, fatigue, and swollen lymph glands — and encouraged concerned individuals to receive MPOX vaccines from local health clinics.

However, this year’s case numbers are tiny when compared to those at the height of the 2022 public health emergency.

In 2022, as MPOX outbreaks occurred worldwide, U.S. health officials reported hundreds of new cases each day from May to October. Queer men, in particular, were considered very susceptible since several international outbreaks had occurred among men who have sex with other men. Health officials warned that the virus could be spread through penetrative intercourse, non-penetrative sex acts — like rimming and kissing — and even skin-on-skin contact via hugging, cuddling, and massage.

But by October 2022, the number of new cases declined 85%, thanks in part to public messaging about the virus and efforts to vaccinate gay and bisexual men at Pride events. Throughout 2023, the number of new cases reported each day had decreased to about ten or fewer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the CDC recommends that concerned individuals get vaccinated against MPOX every two to ten years, it’s less clear how long the vaccination’s effects last between boosters since that time span can vary between people based on their body chemistry and immune responses.

Regardless, the low number of daily MPOX cases reported nationwide indicates that individuals needn’t worry about a new MPOX epidemic arising anytime soon. While the rashes and blisters caused by MPOX are painful and unsightly, health officials in the areas experiencing small outbreaks this year have suggested vaccinations for those who might’ve had a possible exposure rather than for everyone.

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